Susan M. Osborne: Xcel franchise agreement


July 21, 2020

Dear Mayor and City Council members,

You’ve heard from many people the many many reasons to stay the course with Boulder’s municipalization effort. The technical, financial, environmental and philosophical reasons are myriad, and are as valid today as they were 10 years ago. Boulder has the right under the state constitution to form a municipal utility. That we’ve been stonewalled, delayed and bullied by Xcel, that our own utility payments have been used to finance campaigns to thwart the will of our citizens, is outrageous on its face.

There are two points I want to make. The first is that the decision to go down the municipalization path was not made lightly nor was it led by city council. It was a community inspired effort. After a first vote to stay out of franchise with Xcel while other electric utility options were explored, a more-than-a-year long education effort transpired. Some of you may remember. There were forums, workshops, round tables. Representatives from other cities that had developed different utility models were invited to town; renewable energy suppliers and energy innovators taught us all about a different and inspiring path. New citizen groups were formed, and greening our energy supply, self-determination and climate change became inextricably linked. It was a heady time indeed, and I was honored to be mayor and learning along with others about a new and much better energy future.

It just seems wrong that some closed door conversations between a couple of you and Xcel could possibly end this effort. Putting a franchise with this utility on the ballot is a win for Xcel, regardless of whatever small concessions are wrung from it. Conceding to a franchise vote when we are close to knowing whether a municipal electric utility could meet the strict standards set by Boulder voters will derail this community effort. Xcel knows that; surely you do as well.

My second point is more brief. In the last council election cycle, I attended the PLAN-Boulder forums. Each of you who were running (except for one who skipped the forums) were asked about your position on municipalization. At least in my notes, all of you without exception said you supported seeing the municipalization effort through to its conclusion. I took that to mean that you would support doing what it took to determine the costs of and standards for municipalization set by the voters. It was understood that we were but a couple of years away from a final go-no go vote, and that you would be stalwart in your support to get to a vote. How in the world does a five year Xcel franchise square with this commitment?

Please decline to put a franchise agreement on the ballot. In addition to the above reasons, the unprecedented time we are all living through will make it near impossible to mount and finance a fair campaign against the franchise, and that surely is not your intent.

Best regards,
Susan Osborne, former mayor and council member (2007-2011)